La folie douce


The Folies Bergère music hall in Paris staged its first musical review on November 30, 1886. While it’s still in business, its heyday was in the Jazz Age. It was originally planned as an opera house and opened as the Folies Trévise. It was given its present name in 1872 and the owner came up with the idea of the musical review.


A new owner, Paul Derval, brought in his own touch with lavish costumes, sets, special effects, and nearly nude and completely nude women. Derval’s Folies was the starting point for many stars, including Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier and a host of others. It was also a hang-out for artists, like Édouard Manet, who painted the woman at the bar, above. Hungarian artist Michel Gyarmathy first designed a poster for Baker’s show and was subsequently associated with the Folies Bergère for 56 years. Since 2006, the music hall has returned to its roots with some musical theater, such as Cabaret and Zorro.

Josephine Baker

Today’s expression, la folie douce (lah fol-ee doose) literally means “the sweet madness,” but is used to mean “letting one’s hair down.” Over the years, that has definitely been on the program at the Folies Bergère!

51O9X5zqO7L__SL75_Read more about its history: The Folies Bergère

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
This entry was posted in History, Music, Theater and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to La folie douce

  1. Pingback: Une Chanson douce | One quality, the finest.

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